The Autumn Tag

Yes, with the passing of Labor Day weekend, it means that Summer is officially winding down. While we say ‘bye-bye’ to long, humid days, it’s
‘Hello’ to colorful leaves, long boots, and Halloween, and I’m perfectly fine with that! I’m doing The Autumn Tag as part of welcoming cooler days and spooky themes! This tag is featured on Jenniely‘s page, and I couldn’t wait to complete it!

1) Hot Chocolate: What is your comfort book?

‘The Chronicles of Vladimir Tod by Z Brewer. I thoroughly enjoyed reading this first book in a series about a teenage vampire trying to navigate the social dramas of high school while fighting off supernatural forces. I have the last installment in my Kindle, ready to read!

2) Pumpkin Carving: What is your creative outlet?


Along with reading, I find writing to be such a creative outlet! My love for writing began with poetry during college, and continued over the years with fiction writing.
I also have a deep-seeded love for crochet! I’ve been crocheting scarves and amigurumi since my grad school years, yet it’s been temporarily sidelined due to a wrist injury last year. I’ve been itching to pick up the hooks once again, I adore it so much!

3) Falling Leaves: Changes that appear bad but you secretly love?

I would have to say the changing weather! While many don’t look forward to the cooling breezes, I love that the humidity is finally fading! It makes managing my wavy hair so much easier!

4) Pumpkin Spiced Latte: Something you love but others tend to judge?


I’m a devout lover of Snoopy and Peanuts characters! I have a little Snoopy figure from Hallmark that I take pictures of regularly. People aren’t so thrilled by that, but who cares lol

5) Bonfire Night: What makes you explode with joy?
I love the holidays linked with Autumn (Halloween and Thanksgiving) since it’s a time celebrating with friends and family. it builds up to the exciting Winter holiday season!

6) Friday Night: Favorite Scary Book or Film?

I would need to refer to my Stephen King memories for this question!
For movies, I enjoyed Pet Sematary (I saw the original book adaptation, not the more recent one) It was the first movie I watched that legit scared me so much that I had trouble sleeping!
For books, my favorite scary story was a group of them: Night Shift. A rather excellent compilation of frightful tales!

7) Halloween Candy: Favorite thing to eat?
I love to eat fruits and yogurt. I especially love the key lime flavored yogurts. And peanut butter/chocolate combinations!

8) Scarves: Your Autumn must have accessory?
During Autumn, I can never be without my long boots and cardigans!

9) Fire: A Book or Film that Burns Your Soul


I love ‘The Tea Girl of Hummingbird Lane’ by Lisa See. She writes such beautiful historical fiction based around China and Southern California, heavily centered around mother/daughter relationships.

10) Toffee Apples: A Book or Film that seems one thing but really has a different inside

One movie that stands out is Bridesmaids, with Kristen Wiig and Maya Rudolph). It was hilarious, but had a lot of heart!

Sunday Sentence, July 21: Goodbye, Columbus by Philip Roth

I’m participating in David Abrams’s ‘Sunday Sentence‘ project, sharing the best sentence I’ve read during the past week, ‘out of context and without commentary’.

After all the truth I’ve given her, I shouldn’t have ruined it for myself with that final lie’.
Source: Goodbye, Columbus by Philip Roth

July 2019 Book Releases

Although it’s now the beginning of July, here are some of the book releases that are happening this month. I’m very excited to see these selections!

The Chelsea Girls by Fiona Davis
Length: 368 pages
Publisher: Dutton Books
Genre: Historical Fiction
Release Date: July 30, 2019

I’m so excited for this story, since it’s set in one of my favorite areas in New York City. When I lived in New York for seven years, I used to hang around the Chelsea neighborhood often. Although it’s set between the 40s and 60s, I feel like I’m going to enjoy learning about the rich history that New York City contains during this period.

Synopsis (From Goodreads):

From the dramatic redbrick facade to the sweeping staircase dripping with art, the Chelsea Hotel has long been New York City’s creative oasis for the many artists, writers, musicians, actors, filmmakers, and poets who have called it home—a scene playwright Hazel Riley and actress Maxine Mead are determined to use to their advantage. Yet they soon discover that the greatest obstacle to putting up a show on Broadway has nothing to do with their art, and everything to do with politics. A Red scare is sweeping across America, and Senator Joseph McCarthy has started a witch hunt for Communists, with those in the entertainment industry in the crosshairs. As the pressure builds to name names, it is more than Hazel and Maxine’s Broadway dreams that may suffer as they grapple with the terrible consequences, but also their livelihood, their friendship, and even their freedom.

Spanning from the 1940s to the 1960s, The Chelsea Girls deftly pulls back the curtain on the desperate political pressures of McCarthyism, the complicated bonds of female friendship, and the siren call of the uninhibited Chelsea Hotel.

Someone to Honor by Mary Balogh
Part of the Westcott Series
Length: 336 pages
Genre: Historical Romance
Publisher: Berkeley Books
Release Date: July 2, 2019

Synopsis (from Goodreads):

Abigail Westcott’s dreams for her future were lost when her father died and she discovered her parents were not legally married. But now, six years later, she enjoys the independence a life without expectation provides a wealthy single woman. Indeed, she’s grown confident enough to scold the careless servant chopping wood outside without his shirt on in the proximity of ladies.

But the man is not a servant. He is Gilbert Bennington, the lieutenant colonel and superior officer who has escorted her wounded brother, Harry, home from the wars with Napoleon. Gil has come to help his friend and junior officer recover, and he doesn’t take lightly to being condescended to–secretly because of his own humble beginnings.

If at first Gil and Abigail seem to embody what the other most despises, each will soon discover how wrong first impressions can be. For behind the appearances of the once-grand lady and the once-humble man are two people who share an understanding of what true honor means, and how only with it can one find love.

The Wedding Party by Jasmine Guillory
Length: 352 pages
Genre: Women’s Fiction/Contemporary Romance
Publisher: Berkeley Books
Release Date: July 16, 2019

This book is written by the same author who published The Proposal, a Reese Witherspoon book club pick. It was also on Book of the Month a while back. While I wasn’t immediately gravitated toward The Proposal, I appreciate books that feature women living life on her own terms. I’m very curious in seeing how The Wedding Party fares, especially since I’m currently planning my own wedding!

Synopsis (from Goodreads):

     Maddie and Theo have two things in common:

1. Alexa is their best friend
2. They hate each other
After an “oops, we made a mistake” night together, neither one can stop thinking about the other. With Alexa’s wedding rapidly approaching, Maddie and Theo both share bridal party responsibilities that require more interaction with each other than they’re comfortable with. Underneath the sharp barbs they toss at each other is a simmering attraction that won’t fade. It builds until they find themselves sneaking off together to release some tension when Alexa isn’t looking, agreeing they would end it once the wedding is over. When it’s suddenly pushed up and they only have a few months left of secret rendezvouses, they find themselves regretting that the end is near. Two people this different can’t possibly have a connection other than the purely physical, right?

But as with any engagement with a nemesis, there are unspoken rules that must be abided by. First and foremost, don’t fall in love.

The Bookish Life of Nina Hill by Abby Waxman
Length: 351 pages
Genre: Women’s Fiction/Contemporary
Publisher: Penguin Group
Release Date: July 9, 2019

Synopsis (from Goodreads):

The only child of a single mother, Nina has her life just as she wants it: a job in a bookstore, a kick-butt trivia team, a world-class planner and a cat named Phil. If she sometimes suspects there might be more to life than reading, she just shrugs and picks up a new book.

When the father Nina never knew existed suddenly dies, leaving behind innumerable sisters, brothers, nieces, and nephews, Nina is horrified. They all live close by! They’re all—or mostly all—excited to meet her! She’ll have to Speak. To. Strangers. It’s a disaster! And as if that wasn’t enough, Tom, her trivia nemesis, has turned out to be cute, funny, and deeply interested in getting to know her. Doesn’t he realize what a terrible idea that is?
 
Nina considers her options.
1. Completely change her name and appearance. (Too drastic, plus she likes her hair.)
2. Flee to a deserted island. (Hard pass, see: coffee).
3. Hide in a corner of her apartment and rock back and forth. (Already doing it.)
 
It’s time for Nina to come out of her comfortable shell, but she isn’t convinced real life could ever live up to fiction. It’s going to take a brand-new family, a persistent suitor, and the combined effects of ice cream and trivia to make her turn her own fresh page.

The McAvoy Sisters Book of Secrets by Molly Fader
Length: 368 pages
Genre: Women’s Fiction
Publisher: Graydon House
Release Date: July 16, 2019

Synopsis (from Goodreads):

It’s been seventeen years since the tragic summer the McAvoy sisters fell apart. Lindy, the wild one, left home, carved out a new life in the city and never looked back. Delia, the sister who stayed, became a mother herself, raising her daughters and running the family shop in their small Ohio hometown on the shores of Lake Erie.

But now, with their mother’s ailing health and a rebellious teenager to rein in, Delia has no choice but to welcome Lindy home. As the two sisters try to put their family back in order, they finally have the chance to reclaim what’s been lost over the years: for Delia, professional dreams and a happy marriage, and for Lindy, a sense of home and an old flame—and best of all, each other. But when one turbulent night leads to a shocking revelation, the women must face the past they’ve avoided for a decade. And there’s nothing like an old secret to bring the McAvoy women back together and stronger than ever.

With warm affection and wry wit, Molly Fader’s The McAvoy Sisters Book of Secrets is about the ties that bind family and the power of secrets to hold us back or set us free.

Someone We Know by Shari Lapena
Genre: Suspense/Thriller
Length: 304 pages
Publisher: Pamela Dorman Books
Release Date: July 30, 2019

Synopsis (from Amazon):

Maybe you don’t know your neighbors as well as you thought you did . . .
“This is a very difficult letter to write. I hope you will not hate us too much. . . My son broke into your home recently while you were out.”

In a quiet, leafy suburb in upstate New York, a teenager has been sneaking into houses–and into the owners’ computers as well–learning their secrets, and maybe sharing some of them, too.

Who is he, and what might he have uncovered? After two anonymous letters are received, whispers start to circulate, and suspicion mounts. And when a woman down the street is found murdered, the tension reaches the breaking point. Who killed her? Who knows more than they’re telling? And how far will all these very nice people go to protect their own secrets?

In this neighborhood, it’s not just the husbands and wives who play games. Here, everyone in the family has something to hide . . .

You never really know what people are capable of.

Books I Discovered Through iaPOETRY

     My passion for writing and poetry stems from my years in training as a Poetry Therapy Practitioner in iaPOETRY, based in New York City. iaPOETRY (International Academy for Poetry Therapy) is a strong and supportive network of teachers and clinicians founded by Lila Weisberger (now headed by Jill Teague and Geraldine Campbell). I trained as a Poetry Therapy Practitioner from 2004-2011.
Since my start in the organization 15 years ago, Lila and her supportive community paved my way in becoming a strong writer and poet. They’ve shared some valuable reading material throughout my journey in Poetry Therapy. These are just some of the books that hold a special place in my heart.

Finding What You Didn’t Lose: Expressing Your Truth and Creativity Through Poem-Making by John Fox
Genre: Poetry/Education
Length: 320 pages
Publisher: TarcherPerigree
Release Date: September 1995

My first conversation with Lila Weisberger was over the phone in early 2004. During that first discussion, she shared with me the value of John Fox’s book for implementing poetry as a creative healing tool. Fox describes many ways to build your words with creativity and expression. There are many exercises in the book that allows people to use everyday items in your home and work setting to express your thoughts.

Bird by Bird: Some Instruction on Writing and Life by Anne Lamott
Genre: Education/Literature
Length: 237 pages
Publisher: Anchor
Release Date: January 1994

This book serves as a useful tool for writers/poets who wish to learn new techniques on their craft. Using her own experiences in the writing process, Lamott provides the reader multiple exercises in applying brainstorming and free writing in order to flesh out a first draft for a book and/or a collection of poetry. I appreciated the advice that a draft is a document that can always be edited later. I could greatly relate to the advice in marketing yourself…that the process of marketing is a job in itself. My first collection of poetry (A Blossoming Journey) was through a self-publishing company, and getting your work out there is truly a process you must take on yourself. As overwhelming as it seems, I continue to push along and create. The most important thing to do, first and foremost, is to write!

Anger: Wisdom for Cooling the Flames by Thich Nhat Hanh
Length: 227 pages
Genre: Self-Help/Spirituality
Publisher: RIverhead Books
Release Date: August 2001

Many of my poetry therapy colleagues apply Thich Nhat Hanh’s wisdom in achieving peace and mindfulness, yet I picked up one of his books for the first time 5 years ago. During this time, I lost my job in New York, then my apartment a couple months later (no money=no lease renewal). I moved back to New Jersey with relatives, feeling very frustrated about my life journey at that stage. It was at that point when I picked up Thich Nhat Hanh and took in his valuable advice for the soul. The words in Anger served as a soothing balm for my soul. My hurt feelings didn’t dissipate overnight, yet Thich Nhat Hanh allowed me to breathe, to think about what I really needed to guide my soul to heal.

Motherless Daughters: The Legacy of Loss by Hope Edelman
Genre: Non Fiction
Length: 390 pages
Publisher: Da Capo Lifelong Books
Release Date: March 2006 (2nd Edition)

10 years ago, my mother passed away from heart failure. This was no doubt the darkest moment of my life. Along with my family, my poetry therapy community was there to guide me through this difficult time. While working my way through the grieving process, some dear colleagues recommended that I read Motherless Daughters as a healing tool. This book was just what I needed in that rough time, as Edelman shared story after story of women enduring the heartbreak of losing their mothers. The pain from losing my mother never truly fades, yet reading Motherless Daughters (along with a strong support system) helped me move through this difficult stage in my life. 

And StillI Rise: Poems by Maya Angelou
Genre: Poetry
Publisher: Random House
Length: 54 pages
Release Date: August 2001 (1st edition: 1978)

     Still I Rise is part of this memorable poetry collection by Maya Angelou. I first became aware of its powerful message while training in Poetry Therapy. Maya Angelou is a powerful poet and storyteller. She endured so much trauma throughout her life, yet she persevered in sharing her story with an unflinching voice as an African-American woman who created rich tales and poems to empower others. I came across Still I Rise in my studies several years ago, and I loved the strong voice it contains. Angelou’s message comes from triumph in the midst of chaos. Despite slander and hate, Maya Angelou kept moving forward in her life. I turned to Still I Rise last year, since I was going through a very rough period in my life. This particular poem helped me out in life immensely.

Summer 2017: iaPOETRY gathering at Tavern on the Green

     There are many more books that I discovered in my studies as a Poetry Therapy Practitioner, but these few were instrumental in my creative growth. Along with the guidance of my wonderful community, these books helped shine a light in my journey as a poet and writer. I will forever be thankful to my iaPOETRY community.

For more information about iaPOETRY, contact:

Jill Teague: Out of the Blue Writing

International Academy for Poetry Therapy

My OwlCrate for June 2019: Libraries of Wonder

This month’s OwlCrate theme for June is ‘Libraries of Wonder’. I couldn’t wait to see what this box reveals for me, and I absolutely love my items:

OwlCrate Libraries of Wonder spoiler card
Coffee provided by Book Beau, inspired by Beauty and the Beast
Tote bag designed by Stella Bookish Art, inspired by Strange the Dreamer
Two metal bookends designed by Hey Atlas Creative, inspired by The Chronicles of Narnia
Team Owl Crate key gel pen
Coaster set designed by KDP Letters
A closer look of the KDP Letters coaster set, along with the Team OwlCrate Key Gel Pen
June enamel pin designed by Brio and Brandish, inspired by Sorcery of Thorns
OwlCrate exclusive book for June, Sorcery of Thorns by Margaret Rogerson, signed by the author herself
Letter from Margaret Roberson, along with a sticker decal

Mid Year Book Freakout Tag

It’s amazing that 2019 is halfway through! I’ve been seeing this tag circulate throughout June, and I’m glad that I’m finally taking part in it. I see this as a way to relieve wedding planning stress lol!
I came across this book tag through Adventures of a Bibliophile‘s page.

Best Book You’ve Read So Far in 2019
I really enjoyed Daisy Jones and the Six by Taylor Jenkins Reid. I read the audiobook version of this story, and it was absolutely amazing. It felt like I was listening to an actual band’s rise and fall in history. The Oyster Thief by Sonia Faraqi was a close second in favorite reads thus far.

Best Sequel You’ve Read So Far in 2019
I haven’t really read through a sequel yet! I’m currently in progress of reading Crooked Kingdom by Leigh Bardugo. So far I’m enjoying it!

Most Anticipated Release For The Second Half of the Year
I can’t wait to read A Dream So Dark by L.L. McKinney. I really love reading Alice in Wonderland reboots, and A Blade So Black was a lovely modern take on a classic story. The book features a strong, African-American character as Alice, which is very empowering.

Biggest Disappointment
I wasn’t particularly into Siege and Storm by Leigh Bardugo. As much as it was refreshing to discover Nikolai, I found the story as mostly filler.

Biggest Surprise
Girls of Paper and Fire by Natasha Ngan. I was pleasantly surprised in discovering how good this story was! The message of female empowerment in the face of a patriarchal society came through clearly.

Newest Fictional Crush
I would say that Joe Reynolds from Time After Time was very intriguing to learn about! He was hard-working and passionate at the same time, and that always wins me over.

Newest Favorite Character
Addison Hatta in A Blade So Black. He was a super cool individual!

Book That Made You Cry
Daisy Jones and the Six. The last hour of the story was heartbreaking!

Book That Made You Happy
Wish by Barbara O’Connor. It was so endearing, and the dog/child bond was adorable!

Favorite Book to Film Adaptation
Honestly, I haven’t watched too many book to film programs this year. I heard that Good Omens is amazing to watch on Amazon Prime, so I should catch an episode of that series.

Favorite Post You Have Done This Year
I would say that the post about ‘The First Book Series I Read’ was one that I really liked writing about. I love all the posts I’ve worked on, but I enjoyed looking back on what I read when I was younger!

Most Beautiful Book You’ve Bought This Year
Crown of Feathers by Nicki Pau-Preto. I received it through OwlCrate a couple months ago.

What Books Do You Need To Read By the End of the Year
Definitely A Dream So Dark by L.L. McKinney, and Girls of Storm and Shadow by Natasha Ngan. I’m looking forward to reading The Island of Sea Women by Lisa See as well.

Time After Time by Lisa Grunwald/A Review

Time After Time by Lisa Grunwald
Length: 416 pages
Genre: Historical Fiction/Romance
Source: Acquired from NetGalley
Publisher: Random House Publishing Group
Series or Standalone: Standalone

**I received Time After Time through NetGalley, in exchange for an honest review**

I really enjoy stories that focus on New York City in earlier times. When I came across ‘Time After Time’ on Net Galley, I was so happy to learn that this tale focuses on New York between the 20s and 40s.
Time After Time begins during the mid 1930s in Grand Central Terminal. It follows a man named Joe Reynolds, a hard working leverman who ensures that the trains in the terminal run smoothly. Joe encounters a young woman named Nora Lansing, who appears strikingly out of place in her demeanor and appearance, in a lovely way. Joe is taken by her immediately, yet when he tries to walk her home in Turtle Bay, she mysteriously disappears. Their encounters are similar in several occasions, which occur on the same time of year.
After some investigating, Joe learns about a chaotic subway accident in the 1920s that hold strong significance in Nora’s life. The story then goes into Nora’s earlier years in Paris before returning to New York City, as well her life over the 30s and 40s with Joe, as they navigate their new life with one another. Their desire for each other is tempered, as the reality of America’s involvement in World War II makes Joe and Nora realize that change is constant, and a normal part of life.
Grunwald also creates a active tapestry of life in Grand Central Terminal. She vividly portrays the ‘city within a city’, with Joe and Nora frequenting the shops, restaurants and lodgings that’s a stone’s throw away from commuter life. My memories of Grand Central Terminal still walk through my mind regularly, although I moved out of the area a few years ago. I recall how busy the terminal was each and every day, as well as the beauty of the star-lit ceiling, and the famous clock in the center. Grunwald also describes the changing landscape of terminal as the war enters the American landscape, as many men and families enter the metropolis, entering a major point in their lives.
Time After Time is equally moving and intense, as this story follows two people coming to grips with their identity within a changing world. I really appreciated this window of a reimagined New York City life, and the love two people share within it.

Rating: 4/5 Stars

‘The Gilded Wolves’ by Roshani Chokshi/A Review

The Gilded Wolves by Roshani Chokshi
(pictured without dust jacket)
Wednesday Books
Length: 388 pgs
Series or Standalone: Book 1
Genre: YA
Received through OwlCrate

I read ‘The Gilded Wolves’ as part of May’s Asian Readathon. After completing this book, I sat with it for quite a bit. There was so much thought-provoking content with regards to the world building and cultural context in 19th century Europe, so I want to make sure my words came through clearly.

‘The Gilded Wolves’ by Roshani Chokshi takes place in Paris in the year 1889. It is a world influenced by magic, its rules heavily monitored through the Order of Babel. Four Houses (groups) exist within France, with one group rendered into inactivity. The story begins with a theft, a powerful House leader left without her treasured piece of jewelry. It is up to Severin, a wealthy hotel atelier, to gather his group of close companions to regain this treasure. Severin was once guaranteed his inheritance into the inactive House Vanth, and his work in regaining this piece will guarantee his lineage.

One thing that I really appreciated from reading ‘The Gilded Wolves’ was that all of the main characters reflected different regions of the world. Chokshi painted a lovely picture of the supporting characters, each representing a different region of the world. She also describes the discrimination each character faced in their path to success One member faced hardship due to racism, while another battled her struggles in social settings. Although it wasn’t stated, her condition was strikingly similar to one living with autism. It was refreshing to see a character represented in such a positive way.

The world building was very extensive in ‘The Gilded Wolves’, and this was contributed towards the magical system. Everything was ruled under Forgery (solid and liquid objects manipulated into the creator’s liking), and Chokshi illustrates both the positive uses of Forgery, and implementing it to break a person’s will (I still cringe when thinking about the Phoebus Helmet!). While these guidelines were many, I loved learning about this magical system, and how it relates to the Houses working in harmony.

‘The Gilded Wolves’ was a very thought-provoking read, and it lead me to truly care about the characters as they went deeper into their adventure. It makes me curious as to what their next excursion will bring in the sequel!

Rating: 4/5 Stars

June 2019 TBR list

For the month of June, I’m going to continue reading Asian themed novels. I received two new books as I was taking on the Asian , and just never got to them in time! My reading pace is just THAT slow, lol!

These are the books I’m planning on reading during June. I may add on as the month progresses:

We Hunt the Flame by Hafsah Faizal
Length: 480 pgs
Farrar Straus Giroux
Genre: YA

Synopsis:
People lived because she killed. People died because he lived.

Zafira is the Hunter, disguising herself as a man when she braves the cursed forest of the Arz to feed her people. Nasir is the Prince of Death, assassinating those foolish enough to defy his autocratic father, the sultan. If Zafira was exposed as a girl, all of her achievements would be rejected; if Nasir displayed his compassion, his father would punish him in the most brutal of ways. Both Zafira and Nasir are legends in the kingdom of Arawiya—but neither wants to be.

War is brewing, and the Arz sweeps closer with each passing day, engulfing the land in shadow. When Zafira embarks on a quest to uncover a lost artifact that can restore magic to her suffering world and stop the Arz, Nasir is sent by the sultan on a similar mission: retrieve the artifact and kill the Hunter. But an ancient evil stirs as their journey unfolds—and the prize they seek may pose a threat greater than either can imagine.

The Buried: An Archeology of the Egyptian Revolution by Peter Hessler
Penguin Press
480 pgs
Genre: Non-Fiction/History

Synopsis:
Drawn by a fascination with Egypt’s rich history and culture, Peter Hessler moved with his wife and twin daughters to Cairo in 2011. He wanted to learn Arabic, explore Cairo’s neighborhoods, and visit the legendary archaeological digs of Upper Egypt. After his years of covering China for The New Yorker, friends warned him Egypt would be a much quieter place. But not long before he arrived, the Egyptian Arab Spring had begun, and now the country was in chaos.

In the midst of the revolution, Hessler often traveled to digs at Amarna and Abydos, where locals live beside the tombs of kings and courtiers, a landscape that they call simply al-Madfuna “the Buried.” He and his wife set out to master Arabic, striking up a friendship with their instructor, a cynical political sophisticate. They also befriended Peter’s translator, a gay man struggling to find happiness in Egypt’s homophobic culture. A different kind of friendship was formed with the neighborhood garbage collector, an illiterate but highly perceptive man named Sayyid, whose access to the trash of Cairo would be its own kind of archaeological excavation. Hessler also met a family of Chinese small-business owners in the lingerie trade; their view of the country proved a bracing counterpoint to the West’s conventional wisdom.

The Tea Girl of Hummingbird Lane by Lisa See
Scribner Books
384 pgs
Genre: Historical Fiction

Synopsis:
In their remote mountain village, Li-yan and her family align their lives around the seasons and the farming of tea. For the Akha people, ensconced in ritual and routine, life goes on as it has for generations—until a stranger appears at the village gate in a jeep, the first automobile any of the villagers has ever seen.

The stranger’s arrival marks the first entrance of the modern world in the lives of the Akha people. Slowly, Li-yan, one of the few educated girls on her mountain, begins to reject the customs that shaped her early life. When she has a baby out of wedlock—conceived with a man her parents consider a bad match—she rejects the tradition that would compel her to give the child over to be killed, and instead leaves her, wrapped in a blanket with a tea cake tucked in its folds, near an orphanage in a nearby city.

As Li-yan comes into herself, leaving her insular village for an education, a business, and city life, her daughter, Haley, is raised in California by loving adoptive parents. Despite her privileged childhood, Haley wonders about her origins, and across the ocean Li-yan longs for her lost daughter. Over the course of years, each searches for meaning in the study of Pu’er, the tea that has shaped their family’s destiny for centuries.

“Girls of Paper and Fire” by Natasha Ngan: A Review

Book: ‘Girls of Paper and Fire’ by Natasha Ngan
Publisher: Jimmy Patterson Books, Little Brown and Company
Length: 400 pgs.
Series or Standalone: Book #1
in a Series

I read ‘Girls of Paper and Fire’ for Asian Readathon. I didn’t think that I would be swept into this novel so quickly. YA isn’t necessarily the genre I actively lean towards, but the subject content (women finding strength among each other among a harsh, patriarchal environment) was something I was very intrigued about. It did take me a couple weeks to finish, but I have my hectic schedule to blame for that!

‘Girls of Paper and Fire’ takes place in the world of Ikhara, where humans are Paper castes, the lowest ranking citizens. They exist to serve Steel and Moon caste citizens (Part Demon/Human & Demon form, respectively), Paper caste girls’ destiny to become consorts for the Demon King. This story follows the journey of Lei, a Paper caste girl six months shy of her 18th birthday, who works in her father herb shop in the peaceful village of Xienzo. One day, the Demon King’s crew comes for Lei, ripping her from the security of her home to become a Paper Girl. For Lei’s family, they face this horror a second time, for the same group took Lei’s mother seven years prior. Lei is then swept into the Demon King’s region of Han, where she is trained to become the Ninth Paper Girl. Along the way, she learns about the hidden politics that the Demon King and his people exist with within their daily life. Lei also goes on her own personal quest to learn what became of her mother.

Before the novel begins, both James Patterson and Natasha Ngan shares with the reader a trigger warning for violence and sexual assault, and there are certainly scenes in this book that’s difficult to absorb. Lei and the other Paper Girls range between 16-19 years of age, and they must endure varying degrees of physical abuse from the Demon King, and other members of the Royal guard. Although these parts are very difficult to read, they add to the narrative of Lei gaining strength within herself to gain the upper hand over her abusers. She yearns for freedom, yet she is entangled in traditions that are centuries old, thus she finds herself leaning on the guidance of another Paper Girl to navigate through the social graces and code that women must adhere to while living in the Palace. As the plot unfolds, it is reveled that an uprising is in the making, and hidden alliances are formed. This adds into growing tension within the story that culminates into action and dramatics that flowed beautifully.

The supporting characters in ‘Girls of Paper and Fire’ share a camaraderie with Lei in the pathways that align with a YA tale, artfully written to depict the struggles these women face as they live their roles as Paper Girls: the best friend who seeks understanding from Lei as she fights to understand her emotions with the Demon King. The antagonist, set out to make Lei’s life miserable, while enduring the damaging effects of being a Paper caste woman. A blooming romance, which is a female/female relationship. Ngan detailed the growing dynamic between Lei and her partner (from acquaintances to close lovers) very beautifully. It highlighted the strengths and weaknesses of both characters involved, featuring the sacrifices each woman faced upon realizing their feelings for one another.

‘Girls of Paper and Fire’ serves to give readers a deeper understanding of women fighting for justice and empowerment, while handling the ugly face of hierarchy and assault. Natasha Ngan amazingly shares her narrative to young women, providing a strong statement to walk without shame, to understand that victims of assault are not along in their struggle, that they can rise like waves and crash over opposition.

Rating: 5/5Stars